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Rear Admiral Allen L. Powell,
Director of the National Ocean Survey, was born in Nacogdoches County, Texas, the son of the late Joe Allen and Minnie LaRue Powell. Most of his early years were spent in Lufkin, Texas, where he graduated from high school. At the University of Texas his major study was petroleum engineering; where he received the Bachelor of Science Degree in 1938. Afterwards he worked with a paper mill in the home town of Lufkin until going into the Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1942 as a civilian employee. Two years later he joined the Officer Corps. During the latter part of the World War II he was transferred to the Department of Navy and served in the Marine Corps as a Survey Officer, returning to the Coast and Geodetic Survey in April 1947. For this service he received the Asiatic-Pacific and Victory Medals.

During his nearly 37 years with the Coast and Geodetic Survey, ESSA, and NOAA, his diversified assignments have included ship board duty on the COWIE, LYDONIA, PARKER, BOWEN, STIRNI, PIONEER, BOWIE, and EXPLORER. He spent 2-1/2 years with photogrammetric field parties; a major 3-year assignment in geodesy was the leadership of a special survey group at Patrick Air Force Base (Cape Kennedy, Florida). This function was to make precise geodetic measurements for the Air Force Missile Test Center. Here he demonstrated great initiative and ingenuity in bringing about increased accuracy for missile guidance. A particular achievement was the designing of a tribrach for the Azusa Mark II Tracking System so as to obtain the exceedingly fine adjustment required for exact centering on target. This performance was recognized by the award of the Department of Commerce's Silver Medal.

He returned to duty in Coast and Geodetic Survey Headquarters in the fall of 1963, at which time he was assigned to the staff overseeing vessel construction. Admiral Powell became deeply involved in the design and building of NOAA's largest ships, the OCEANOGRAPHER and the DISCOVERER, as well as a number of smaller-class vessels. While in this assignment, he was awarded the Department of Commerce's Gold Medal for leadership and development of new concepts in the design of oceanographic and hydrographic ships.

In December 1968, he was transferred to Norfolk, Virginia, to head the Atlantic Marine Center and received the grade of Rear Admiral (lower half). Here he was in charge of all activities including the operation, maintenance, and repair of the NOAA vessels operating from that center. In August 1971, he returned to National Ocean Survey Headquarters to become Director of the newly created Office of Fleet Operations, responsible for the maintenance and operation of all NOAA vessels. In May 1972, he was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral (upper half) and became Director of the National Ocean Survey. In June 1972, he was appointed by the President to the Mississippi River Commission which is advisory to the Army Corps of Engineers and concerned with water flow, navigation, and flood control.

Among his professional activities, Admiral Powell is a member of the Marine Technology Society, the Society of American Military Engineers, the U.S. Naval Institute, the American Oceanic Organization, and the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association. He is a past member of the Oceanographic Ships Panel, Interagency Committee on Oceanography.

Admiral Powell and his wife, the former Neta Menefee of Lufkin, Texas reside in Vienna, Virginia. Their son, Allen, Jr. lives in Moscow, Idaho, and a daughter, Mrs. Leilani Ann Grimm, in Vienna, Virginia. Admiral Powell retired in August 1979, and will return with his wife to Texas.


Publication of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA Central Library.
Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:27 AM

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